Friday, 22 December 2017

Scottish Parliament consults on raising court fees

Just like the star of Bethlehem, legal costs are in the ascent in Scotland.

The Scottish Government is consulting on raising court fees for Scottish jurisdiction. Its objective is to ensure that the fees collected are sufficient to pay for running its courts.  A “demand-led” remission scheme is available which is intended to protect access to justice.

Court fees have generally been reviewed every three years, with the last full round being implemented in 2015.

In 2016 the Scottish Government concluded that it was necessary to move further towards full-cost recovery in the courts, which has been the policy of the current and previous governments for some time. The Court Fees (Miscellaneous Amendments) (Scotland) Order 2016 came into force on 28 November 2016.  This order raised the level of fees significantly, although certain fees, such as those in the Sheriff Personal Injury Court, were frozen in order to protect access to justice.  The overall effect was intended to bring the level of fees to the point at which they cover the costs of the civil justice system. 

Inflationary pressures in the wider economy have driven the Scottish Government to adhere to the original three yearly review to set fees for the three- year period commencing on 1 April 2018 (by which point it will be 17 months since the last fees increase).

Unlike the position in England & Wales, where a policy of enhanced court fees has developed, it is not intended that court fees should move to a point where a profit is made (that could be used to subsidise other parts of the justice system).

A separate but connected development is the Civil Litigation (Expenses and Group Proceedings) (Scotland) Bill currently before the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Government state that this will make the costs of civil action more predictable by increasing the funding options for pursuers of civil actions through greater availability of “no win, no fee” success fee agreements.   

 It is proposed that qualified one-way cost-shifting should be introduced for personal injury claims and this will also protect pursuers from the risk of having to pay their opponent's costs in personal injury cases if the case is lost, provided they have acted properly (as in England & Wales). 

LEI ensures that personal injury claimants are able to keep their damages in full. Considered together these two developments support the premise that LEI will provide even better value than before for our policyholders in Scotland.

Landlords Legal Solutions

By the way – a reminder that we have updated our Landlords policy to reflect the new landlord and tenant law in Scotland.

With all best wishes for the festive season from the Product Development team at ARAG.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Legal disputes, legal expenses insurance and access to justice

The Ministry of Justice has just released civil justice stats for July to September 2017
An increase in claims is evident – in fact a 13% increase over the same quarter last year and this is driven by 15% increase in the number of specified money claims which stand at 560,000 – the second highest number since 2006.
70% of money claims involved sums in dispute of less than £1,000.
The number of cases which are contested and proceed to a trial has increased by some 11%.

The figure I picked up on is that where claims were defended, 56% had legal representation for both claimant and defendant (down one percentage point from July to September 2016), 24% had representation for claimant only (up one percentage point over the same period), and 3% for defendant only.  This points to a considerable gap in affordable access to justice which is the tip of an iceberg. It is impossible to know how many individuals and businesses are deterred from pursuing claims or putting forward a defence by cost barriers and/or lack of confidence and time required to manage their litigation. 
The CJC’ s recent information study, “The Law and Practicalities of Before-the-event (BTE) insurance” found that “BTE offers large numbers of people access to significant assistance, including via legal helplines (and, less commonly, legal websites)”.

Businesses and individuals can quickly recognise savings that exceed the premium they paid for their legal expenses policy by down loading free legal documents and using our helplines.  The barrier to recognising the considerable value of products is lack of awareness of the benefits available.  I am optimistic that awareness is beginning to improve and the CJC’s information study could be influential in contributing to this. More importantly brokers have a huge part to play in helping customers to fully understand how products can help them.

This leads me on to Insurance Product Information Documents. Just a reminder, if you are selling a “standard ”ARAG product  log into our website to down-load our new Insurance Product Information Documents. If the product you are selling is not quite standard we will modify the relevant standard document for you to ensure that it is suitable and send you a customised IPID document.
If you are a product manufacturer and have ARAG cover integrated into your products please get in touch with your broker account manager or me if you would us to supply or approve ARAG content for your IPIDs.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Audit Trail to London

The ISO27001 (Information Security Standard) is managed by a small team, comprising of IT Management (Bob Moreton, Ben Clarkson) and six internal auditors drawn from various departments within the company. The Auditors have been instrumental in ARAG annually retaining this important certification for the last three years.

In recognition of the team doing it “for the love” (as they all have very busy day jobs) they were recently rewarded with a trip to London. First stop on this whistle-stop tour was a visit to the Lloyd’s building in the City of London, kindly arranged by our Underwriting partner Brit, where our team were educated on the history of the market’s roots in maritime insurance and shown around the famous boxes. Our team thought it was interesting to note that the visitor seats that the brokers sit on were shorter and more uncomfortable than the box seats, perhaps demonstrating a position of power and of time constraint!

This was followed by another tour, this time at Brit’s nearby offices in the fabulous Leadenhall Building, although some of the team weren’t so keen on being whizzed up in the glass sided, super-fast lift to the 40th Floor and feeling like it was only just clinging to the outside edge of the building.

Of course, there is no such thing as a free lunch so the team then carried out an audit of the ARAG London office (which opened in 2016) and falls within the scope of the ISO certification. The audit includes ensuring the physical security of the office by querying the visitor process with receptionists, and monitoring the server room which was suitably air conditioned, so the team were unsurprisingly quick in completing this audit - brrr!

To follow on from the earlier maritime theme, the team were rewarded with drinks at The Oyster Shed and dinner in Borough Market, followed by a sleepy train journey back to Bristol.

Many thanks to the whole team for a fantastic day and their hard work throughout the year!

The team includes:
  • Ben Parkinson, Broker Account Handler
  • David Caines, BTE Underwriter
  • Fran Box, Learning & Development Coordinator
  • Johanna Graham, CMU Team Leader
  • Jordan Wall, Compliance Advisor
  • Nigel Sobers, ATE Senior Claims Handler

Monday, 27 November 2017

Video Killed The Radio Star

We are always looking for new and helpful ways to communicate with our customers and a popular addition is a customer-focused animated video explaining what happens if someone has a claim.
Further animated videos are already in production so keep your eyes peeled for these in the new year.

More recent video uploads:

  • Update on the clinical negligence market 
  • Introducing a new ATE Account Manager 
  • How ARAG’s legal advice helpline work

Carefully crafted as brief and incisive, yet informative, they are easy to locate: the latest are displayed on the ARAG website and all can be seen on our YouTube channel.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Better consumer information on the way

Whatever the final outcome of the Insurance Distribution Directive (IDD), end-users will be better informed on the insurance products they are buying.

Consultation may yet modify the FCA’s suggestions but the broad concepts will remain and apply from pre-purchase to after the end of the contract:
• know your customer
• know your target market
• facilitate product comparisons and avoid competitive distortions
• provide Insurance Product Information Document (IPID)
• protect customer’s money
• no conflicts of interest
Achieving all these objectives requires a holistic approach within the organisation and then again when the product is retailed, bundled or distributed. Point of sale is of course the most crucial aspect but IDD will impact on product design, sales, HR, data security and many other areas.

The consumer must first be presented with a clear choice that meets their needs and, second, be provided with something that lives up to their expectations.

The new IPID must be in a durable medium, such as on paper, and contain objective details of the product and exclusions. It must be available for renewals and bundled packages where more than one IPID may be needed. Though brief in content, it must give sufficient helpful information to inform the customer’s choice prior to them concluding the contract. It will be up to the retailer to decide the point at which the information is most appropriate to aid that choice. 

Get it wrong and it will of course count against you in ombudsman decisions.